SAN ANTONIO – Paced by a career-high 18 points from junior guard Christian Tucker, the UTSA men’s basketball team (1-0) came away from Monday night’s 2023-24 season opener with a gritty team effort against Western Illinois (0-1), dominating overtime to secure eighth-year head coach Steve Henson’s 100th career victory.
The Leathernecks put the first points on the 2023-24 scoreboard for tonight’s game via a Jesiah West dunk. However, the Roadrunners were quick to answer and claim their first lead on an Isaiah Wyatt three-pointer. The momentum swung back to WIU twice more in the early going, but center Carlton Linguard Jr. began making his offensive presence known in keeping UTSA on top. While the Roadrunners maintained the lead for over 36 minutes of the first half, a 23.7-percent UTSA shooting percentage allowed the Leathernecks to hang around, sending the game to halftime in the period’s fifth tie at 28-28.
Coming out of the break, every time the Roadrunners built a two-possession game, WIU put on the offensive pressure to slash it in half. Near the midpoint of the second half, UTSA started to build a little steam, as Tucker put away a pair of free throws, added a jumper and then Linguard drained a three from the left arc with 7:45 remaining to give UTSA a seven-point advantage. As Western Illinois battled back, Tucker knocked down 7-of-8 free throws in the final three minutes. However, Leathernecks’ guard James Dent Jr.’s free throw with :09 on the clock proved most consequential. After replay awarded possession off Dent’s second free throw miss, he pulled up from NBA range to tie the game in regulation and send the game to overtime at 65-65.
UTSA finally took full command of the game in the extra period, beginning with Trey Edmonds delivering the hoop and the harm three-point play in the first 17 seconds. Edmonds scored on the next possession and Tucker put away two more free throws as the Leathernecks began to foul. Although Dent dropped another three, Wyatt, Edmonds and Tucker combined for six unanswered points to deliver the 78-68 opening night victory.
While outrebounding WIU 7-1 in overtime, the Roadrunners notched a 13-3 scoring margin to run away with the win in the extra period.
Tucker went a career-leading 12-for-15 at the free throw line to lead UTSA with a career-high 18 points, on top of a career-best eight assists. Making his official debut after sitting last season, Linguard collected a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double – grabbing his last three boards in overtime to flip the court amidst UTSA’s drive to victory. The third Roadrunner to reach double-figures, Edmonds scored 15 with eight rebounds in the win.
UTSA kicks off the season on a victory for the fourth consecutive season, earning a season-opening win against a Division I opponent for the first time since 2011-12. Monday’s victory over the Leathernecks is the first program win over an Ohio Valley Conference program.
The Roadrunners hit the road for the next four contests, beginning on Friday in Minneapolis against Minnesota – the Roadrunners’ first Big 10 opponent since 2017. That game will air live on Peacock, a program-first for the Roadrunners. After heading to Lamar, Texas State and Houston Christian, UTSA will be back in the Convo on Nov. 24-25 for the Roadrunner/Cardinal Classic against Jacksonville State and UIW.